It is a happy talent to know how to play.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
In honor of my mom on her birthday…
My mom was my first and favorite playmate. She taught me to play—she did this by playing with me. One of my first memories as a child is of playing house with my mother. I would be the mommy and she would be the little girl and I would feed her lunch with play dishes and imaginary food. We would sit at my child-sized table and eat our make-believe meals, sometimes eating our imaginary ice cream before our imaginary sandwiches—giggling because ice cream is supposed to be dessert. She would jump rope and with me and my younger siblings. She would pull out the crayons and coloring books and color pictures with us for hours on end. Mom knew how to play and instilled in my sisters, brothers and me the joy that comes from playing with our favorite adult.
Flash forward thirty years. Five-year-old Rachel and her mom had just finished a 500 mile trek to visit grandma. It is early morning with summer sunlight just starting to peak through pink-tinted clouds. Mom and grandma are sleeping, having visited late into the night the evening prior. Rachel climbs into grandma’s bed and sits and waits. Finally grandma opens one eye and sees the five-year old who is rustling restlessly on the blankets waiting for that moment. She greets her grandma with an elf-in smile. “Hi grammsie,” she whispers. “Do you want to play ‘home’ like me and mommy play?” And play ties together three generations. That visit was filled with the same make-believe games between grandma, granddaughter and mom. Make-believe sandwiches, ice cream and tea. Three generations of players.
I have learned about the importance of play from my mother. My guess is that she learned about the wonder and joy of play by playing with my brothers, sisters and me. I then taught my daughter to play. And she showed me the wonder and joy of play. She taught me in our play, mom-to-child, the joy of playing with a child. Of losing moments and afternoons in the land of make-believe with her and her younger brother. Of watching with wonder as they lost their way in play and imagination and entering with joy as they invited me to tea.
Play with a favorite adult is wonderful. Play with a child is wonder-filled.
Play-titude #2: If you are looking for play, look no further than the closest child in your life and play away.